Polls show grim political outlook for state government

Two new polls out from the University of New Orleans’ Survey Research Center and LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab reveal that the public has serious concerns about the budget and the direction the state is heading as the Legislature launches into its second session of the year.

In the automated UNO poll, Gov. John Bel Edwards’ favorability seems to be improving — 43 percent of survey respondents found the governor favorable while 34 percent found him unfavorable, compared to a 34-44 split just three weeks ago.

Edwards definitely fared better than the state Legislature, which received a 15 percent favorability rating and a 53 percent unfavorable.

Whether or not people are actually paying attention to the financial fights at the Capitol, 79 percent believe that the state’s budget is in “crisis,” while 11 percent do not think there is a budget crisis at all and 10 percent do not know.

Also, nearly 49 percent blame the perceived crisis on former Gov. Bobby Jindal — 24 percent blame the Legislature and 3 percent point a finger at Edwards.

In the LSU poll, nearly two-thirds of Louisiana residents, or 63 percent, think the state is heading in the wrong direction, the most on record since the survey group began tracking opinion in 2003.

The share of respondents who name the state’s budget as the most important problem jumped from 7 percent in 2015 to 26 percent this year.

The UNO poll surveyed 631 active registered voters with automated questions on March 13, with a +/-3.9 percent margin of error.

The LSU poll was conducted live Feb. 1-Feb. 26 with both landline and cell phone respondents, with a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.Edwards pay agenda has opponentsOn the opening day of the regular session last week Gov. John Bel Edwards said he wanted to attack poverty by hiking the minimum wage.

“Paying our workers a living wage is a basic principle in a land of opportunity,” Edwards said. “$7.25 per hour is simply not a living wage in 2016.”

He called it a “modest increase” that would be passed in over the next two years with a minimum wage of $8 per hour beginning in 2017 and then $8.50 in 2018. He noted 14 states other kicked off the New Year with increased minimum wages.

Equal pay for women is another component of his plan. “Single mother households account for the majority of Louisiana families living in poverty and over half of our low income families,” the governor said.

On the Senate side, Labor and Industrial Relations Chairman Neil Riser, R-Columbia, expressed doubt that the proposals will move.

“I don’t think I can support that,” he said.

On the House side, Republicans on the labor counterpart committee outnumber Democrats 10 to seven, although Chairman Patrick Jefferson, D-Shreveport, has supported similar measures in the past.

Dawn Starns, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, is planning to fight the proposals as well.

“NFIB is asking the Legislature to push back against Gov. Edwards’ overreaching policies that would create additional hardships for Louisiana’s job creators,” she said. “We need lawmakers to look for ways to help small businesses grow and create jobs and lead Louisiana’s economy back to solid ground. We can’t afford for legislators to put politics ahead of common sense.”New names still hover over Senate raceAs well defined as the field is becoming for the U.S. Senate race this fall, there are still some politicos sitting on the fence that could influence the contest.

The latest is Abhay Patel, an economic development professional from New Orleans who is being encouraged to run.

The LSU grad is a former Wall Street investment banker who at one time raised in excess of $30 billion for transactions like Hertz’ acquisition of Dollar Thrifty.

Patel, a Republican, would be a first-time candidate. He’s currently the vice president of business development for the New Orleans Business Alliance.

There’s also quadriplegic activist and attorney Derrick Edwards, likewise from New Orleans, who is officially a candidate and is only starting to campaign.

Meanwhile, Democrat Josh Pellerin, president and CEO of Pellerin Energy Group, has engaged a firm to file his federal paperwork for a run in the U.S. Senate race, according to sources familiar with his developing campaign.

Key staff, including a fundraising consultant, are being lined up as well.

He could self-fund his bid if needed, but has some high-profile friends. During Washington Mardi Gras, Pellerin personally met with President Barack Obama.

State Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Mandeville, is thinking about it, as is GOP Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta of Metairie and Democratic state Sen. Gary Smith Jr. of St. Charles Parish.

On the Democratic side, Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell and Denham Springs attorney Caroline Fayard have announced.

On the Republican side, Treasurer John Kennedy, Congressman Charles Boustany, Congressman John Fleming, Retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness and former Congressman Joseph Cao, a Republican, of New Orleans are candidates.

Former legislator Troy Hebert, who would run with no party affiliation, is expected to run as well.Regular session will welcome new legislatorQualifying for late Rep. Ronnie Edwards’ House District 29 has ended and a new representative could be in the seat just a month into the regular session, or later if a runoff is needed.

There are five Democratic contenders, including Tyra Banks Sterling, Edwards’ former legislative assistant. Former prosecutor Victor Woods is running as well and should find success in raising money inside and outside the district.

A local pastor, Albert White, qualified too.

There are two other candidates who formerly faced Edwards in last fall’s election. Edwards beat attorney Edmond Jordan, a fellow Democrat, 59-41.

Jordan made the late representative’s cancer a campaign issue, questioning her ability to serve. In the 2015 primary Edwards led Jordan 36-29. East Baton Rouge Parish School

Board Member Vereta Lee received 25 percent of the primary vote and motivational speaker Daniel Banguel received 10 percent.

Both Lee and Jordan are running again.

The primary is set for April 9, with a runoff as needed scheduled for May 14.They Said It“Didn’t we just do this?”—Gov. John Bel Edwards, before beginning his session-opening speech “Almost as pretty as you are.”—Edwards, getting playfully fresh with Miss Louisiana, describing her rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner”


About Jeremy Alford 226 Articles
Jeremy Alford is an independent journalist and the co-author of LONG SHOT, which recounts Louisiana's 2015 race for governor. His bylines appear regularly in The New York Times and he has served as an on-camera analyst for CNN, FOX News, MSNBC and C-SPAN.

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